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Child contact arrangements at Christmas

View profile for Nameeta Gujral
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Agreeing shared contact for children can be difficult for divorced or separated parents. Here we break down your options to help this Christmas.

When any relationship breaks down, it can be difficult for parties to agree on the best way forward to separate, and it is not always amicable. One of the toughest decisions for families can be what happens to the children when their parents separate.  

The process of forming an agreement on who has contact with the children, and when, is not always smooth sailing, but as the festive season fast approaches, it is important that both parents agree on what is best for the children.

What is child contact?

In a typical child contact arrangement, children primarily reside with one parent and have consistent, regular contact with the other.

Agreements can cover:

  • Deciding which parent the child should live with
  • How often the child spends time with the other parent
  • How long contact should last for – a few hours, weekend stays, etc
  • Where contact should take place, be it at the other parent’s home or in the community

How can you arrange contact during the festive period?

Not having a concise child arrangement agreement after separation or divorce can lead to disputes. This can be avoided if both parties can come to an agreement as to how the time will be shared as early as possible.

Consider what is best for the children. Ideally  speak to your ex-partner about  how it will work during the festive period. This could involve splitting Christmas Day between both parties- for example, your ex-partner could spend time with the children in the morning/afternoon while you spend time with the children in the evening and on Boxing Day.

Any arrangement that is reached will be specific to your circumstances and your ex-partner’s willingness to negotiate amicably. It may be the case that you need a third party to help and assist in coming to an arrangement. This could be a family mediator or a family solicitor. 

What can you do if an agreement is not reached?

If you cannot reach an agreement, you may wish to contact one of our family solicitors. A family solicitor can help by negotiating your agreement or help to arrange a Mediation session for you.

Our solicitors can also apply for a Child Arrangements Order on your behalf if your ex-partner is not willing to engage.

What is a Child Arrangements Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is a legally binding agreement used by the court to help you reach a consensus on where your child/children should live, how the time is divided, and the type of contact you and your ex-partner should have, e.g. telephone calls or face to face visits.

You can apply for a Court Order with the help of a solicitor if you are the child’s mother, father, or if you have parental responsibility for the child. As a grandparent, you could also apply for a Court Order with the court’s permission.

Top Tips for handling child contact arrangements

  • Compromise- the festive period is a magical time for children and they should be at the heart of any planning. Think about how they would like to spend their Christmas Day.
  • Plan your arrangements as early as possible- this will give you plenty of time to try and resolve matters amicably and resolve any potential disagreements. If you cannot resolve the issues, look at other options, including attending mediation and seeking legal advice
  • If you feel you have exhausted all other options and need to make an application to the court, our specialist solicitors recommend that you do this as soon as possible as December are a very busy month for the courts.

How we can help

We understand that these discussions can be tough, and the festive period may make it more difficult to reach an agreement. Our team of family expert solicitors are on hand to offer up to date and reliable legal advice, and to help you reach a decision that is best for your child.

Contact our experts for further advice